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Image has value of its own
Published on Thursday, 14 Apr 2011
Illustration: Bay Leung

Wearing an Armani suit to work every day won't get you far in building a professional image.

"Image has a lot more to do with who you are and what you represent, and how you project this in the way you dress, talk and behave," writes Pang Li Kin, a Singapore-based image consultant in her book, Professional Image: Your Roadmap to Success.

The book is part of the ST Training Solutions Success Skills series that aims to spread the experience and expertise of trainers of ST Training Solutions, a Singapore-based company that offers a range of training programmes.

Pang, an image professional certified by the Association of Image Consultants International, has worked and trained with companies in various industries.

She says a handy start to enhance our image is to identify three "brand values" or strengths. One may say he is creative, friendly and progressive. Another may say she is reliable, driven and confident. Brand values may come in any other combination.

Pang then recommends a tool to help us assess if the image we project is in line with our brand values.

She says our professional image is apparent in three ways - visual (what you wear to work and official events), sound (how you handle conversations and how good a listener you are) and personality (your work habits and relationships with your peers and boss).

Throughout the book, she offers tips on boosting our image, from embarking on a makeover on a shoestring budget and understanding what colours to wear or avoid in different circumstances, to improving the "technical" and "dramatic" quality of our voice by adjusting the pitch, volume, speed and range or learning where to place an emphasis, when to pause and add emotion.

Pang tells us how to behave professionally and build relationships at work: Be on time, deliver as promised, use company time for business only, offer help when needed, be considerate, and adopt a good attitude - to name a few.

She shows job-seekers how to add a touch of professionalism to their resumes and suggests ways for aspiring professionals how to stand out among their peers.

A light and lively read, Professional Image consists of illustrations, anecdotes and boxes highlighting key learning points.

The latter include "Myth Buster", which debunks conventional wisdom, "Aha! Moment", which is devoted to valuable insights and "Try This", which tells us how to put something into practice.

A "Star Tips" section is also included, recapping the major points at the end of each chapter.

The book has some useful advice and practical tools that are suitable for young executives who are bent on climbing the career ladder.

"In today's job market, qualifications, experience and competencies are minimum expectations ... The bad news is this: you are not the only one in the whole wide world with the same job qualifications," Pang says.

"If we make a bad first impression, we have to work very hard to change it, but if we make a consistently good impression, it is easier for others to accept us. This can only help open doors to opportunities that will lead to success."